Review: Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain

August 12, 2013 Memoir, Random House, Review 4

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 13, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1400068622
  • Source: Publisher

In September of 2001, when the mother of twenty-year-old Justin St. Germain is murdered at the hands of her fifth husband in Tombstone, AZ, it is written off as “A real-life old West murder mystery.”  Despite its famous history, Tombstone is still a small-town, and rumors about Debbie St. Germain’s lifestyle begin to escalate.  Justin, now living in California, returns to Tombstone after his mother’s death, his life now forever segmented into “before” and “after” his mother’s murder.

Justin rushed to escape his former life in Tombstone as soon as he was able, creating a new life in San Francisco. Yet this tragedy forces his previous life to come flooding back to him.  His mother, a former army paratrooper, was an incredibly strong and independent, working hard and sacrificing a great deal to give Justin and his brother a better life. Her murder forces Justin to re-examine what he thought of his mother and the life they had together.  Desperate to find answers to the cause of her death, Justin re-unites with his mother’s former husbands, men who had a fleeting involvement in his life. In his search he discovers and realizes the true meaning of family. all the while hoping that he has become the man his mother would have wanted him to be.

On the surface, one may be lead to believe that this is true crime novel, but instead it is far more than that. As Justin uncovers information about his mother’s life and a myriad of men who passed through their lives, it’s hard to avoid the realization that his mother’s life was far different than what he perceived.  What caused her to go from one man to another, forcing Justin and his brother to move from home to home? In the end, her marriage to her fifth husband was so different than the others, the two never leaving each other in the last few days of her life. The more he examines his mother’s life, and his own, the more questions go unanswered.

Giving the setting, it’s hard not to compare his mother’s death to the infamous shoot-out that transpired in Tombstone ages ago, not necessarily due to the specifics but because of the aftermath. In both cases, people seem far more mesmerized by the killers than the victims themselves. Justin’s mission, in this emotional and enlightening memoir, is to bring to light his mother’s life for fear that it may lie buried like so much of Tombstone’s past.  A town riddled with a past full of gun violence, Justin can’t ignore the fact that his mother is just another one of Tombstone’s victims.

I cannot begin to summarize how mesmerized I was by Justin’s memoir.  From page one, when his mother’s death is relayed, I was transfixed and almost hypnotized by the emotion relayed in Justin’s words as he learned of, and dealt with, his mother’s death.  He was never really a “Mama’s boy,” always seeking independence and escape from his life in Tombstone, yet his mother’s death lassos him back into this life he once despised.  He now feels guilt for being the son that escaped, “forcing” his mom to give up so much in order to grant him the life he felt he deserved.  Discovering so much about his mother and her many husbands, he has a reawakening of sorts, finally seeing through the tinted glasses he’d worn all his life, for the first time truly understanding the woman his mother was, and grew to be. At the same time he is transformed from a confused and floundering victim to a self-realized young man.

An incredibly remarkable memoir that melds past with present, Son of a Gun will force readers to reflect upon their own life and family and the choices and the sacrifices they make all in the name of family. Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Be sure to check out the other stops along the way!

4 Responses to “Review: Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain”

  1. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)
    Twitter: kimthedork

    This is such a good review Jenn! I love what you said about how his mother’s murder connects to Tombstone and people’s interest in the killers rather than the victims. That was something I hadn’t been able to really put together in my head yet.

  2. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    Wow, I can’t imagine such a horrific experience! It seems that Justin made huge changes in himself as a result of it though. I can see why you’re recommending this so highly!

    Thanks for being on the tour Jenn. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.